Savoring Fall

Many autumns just slip by, with only moments of awareness, a few accidental fleeting changes to soak it in and enjoy the particular pleasures of the season. This particularly unfortunate in New England, where the fall presentation is done so expertly.

I expected I would be even less attentive to fall this time around, given the push to get my dissertation done by Christmas break. But by mid-October I had taken my second dissercation week off from work and was able to hand in a full draft to my committee. We immediately left town for a very enjoyable weekend camping with friends in the White Mountains, where the view from Mt. Lafayette provided a fantastic vantage point for the whole spectacle.

nh-fall2008

There was enough time between this trip and the first dissertation feedback that we could slip in another trip last weekend, this time to the Finger Lakes region of upstate NY. The main reason to go was to finally visit Andrew at Cornell and meet up with Ken and Irene. It was great to see everyone, and it was even better that we were able to explore the waterfalls of Watkin’s Glen with enough fall foliage and sunlight to make the gorges even more stunning.

Now the final dissertation sprint has begun, but I’m thankful that won’t have to mortgage all of autumn to pay for what I hope will be a great Christmas present–for myself and for everyone else who will be glad when it’s done.

watkins glen

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Mt. Washington and a week of Dissercation

This past week I took the week off to work on my dissertation–more like a “staycation” than a real vacation. Or perhaps I should call it a “dissercation,” to coin a really ugly word. It like the way it has hints of “diss” words (dissatisfied, diservice, dissipate, dissonance) on one end and of “altercation” on the other. In any case, it was cage match with me and the dissertation, and I put it to the mat until it begged for mercy. I talked a lot of smack and made sure it knew that things are different now. It’s had the run of my life for too many years, but now it knows its days are numbered.

By the end of the week, I came away with drafts of four out of five chapters, and I feel good about the progress. I still have a ways to go to pull together a full draft by the end of the summer, but I now feel more confident it will happen.

It was easier to focus for the week because I got a good weekend of hiking in with Cathy beforehand. We hiked Mt. Washington and stayed over night at the Lakes of the Clouds AMC hut  about an hour hike from the summit.

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As alway happens when we hike, it rained. We hiked in the rain almost the entire way up Tuckerman’s Ravine and the last scramble to the summit was a cold mix of rain and wind. On the top, we couldn’t see more than 50 feet in any direction, so we just enjoyed the the chance to warm up and eat some chili before heading down to the hut.

But it was still great to get a taste of Mt. Washington (my first time) and I look forward to the views next time around.

More photos here

The Greasy Pole in One Minute

Yesterday afternoon Ben and I biked up to Gloucester where we joined other friends to take in the annual Greasy Pole Competition (read more for Wikipedia). Despite the forecast of thunderstorms, we enjoyed a very pleasant weather for our ride and even after missing our turn in Manchester by the Sea, we still managed to get there in time to watch a good part of the competition. 

Here's a one-minute recap of yesterday's event: 

Minton Stable Garden Potluck

This evening I stopped by the first potluck of the year at the Minton Stable Garden two blocks away from my place. I sauteed up the collard greens from my CSA and they actually got eaten (even by some kids). Thanks to Laurel for sharing some of her fish–I came away with to nice pieces of sea bass.

mintongardenpotluck

The Minton Stable Garden was built on an old stable that fell into disrepair but was reclaimed by a group of dedicated gardeners from the neighborhood. Due to their hard work, the space is now a permanent community garden part of the Boston Natural Areas Network.

The evening a memorial was dedicated to John Carroll, the first person to begin gardening here and one of the chief stewards of the space. He died in November and this potluck was a chance for friends, family, and community members to pay tribute to him and spread his ashes in the garden that he worked so hard to create.

This video gives a brief portrait of what he was like:

A Heavenly Harvest: First CSA Pick-up

This evening after work I stopped by Community Servings here in JP to pick up my first CSA delivery of fruits and veggies straight from Heaven’s Harvest Farm in New Braintree, MA. It’s the first time I’ve tried community supported agriculture, so after reading Michael Polland and Bill McKibben recently, I’m excited to try out a new relationship to my food.

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Here’s what I got in this delivery (as closely as I can identify):

redcor kale
green kale
collard greens
strawberrys
romane lettuce
a lemony mint plant
zuccini
cilantro

If anyone has relevant recipes, please don’t hesitate to send them my way.

The Heart and Soul of Places

I spent last Thursday and Friday in Woodstock, VT with a group of people invited by the Orton Foundation to discuss their "Heart and Soul" approach to planning. The invitation seemed to come out of the blue a few months ago, since I was aware of the Orton Foundation's work but not involved with them at all. Apparently they had seen my work on place blogging and wanted to have someone in the group who had experienve thinking about place and technology, but I went into the gathering a bit unsure of what I would have to contribute.

Most of the folks there were planners and community development types, heads of non-profits and foundations, and others with much more experience actually making places. I've just been sitting in front of my computer writing about people who write about places. But I was glad for the chance to hear how they talked about place 

 

The Orton Family Foundation works to build vibrant and enduring communities. We help small cities and towns articulate, implement and steward their heart and soul assets so that they can adapt to change while enhancing the attributes they value most. The Foundation promotes inclusive, proactive decision-making and land use planning by providing guidance, tools, research, capital and other support to citizens and leaders.  

 

"The need for a new approach is predicated on our belief that land use planning in America has yeet to live up to its full potential to engage a broad base of local citizens in defining and shaping the future of their communities. The traditional quantitative approach to planning generate and use important data about demographic and economic shifts, but frequently fail to account for the particular ways people relate to their surroundings, and usually ignore or discount the more nuanced information like shared values, beliefs, and quirky customs that strengthen community" 

 

The Language of Biking

Thanks to everyone who donate to my Bikes Not Bombs ride. We raised much more than last year–over $100,000 dollars after pledges come in. It was a hot day–97 degrees–by the time I rolled back into the city via Blue Hills Ave in Dorchester, but it was a fun ride nonetheless.

bnb_ride_2008

At the beginning of each leg, we formed a fairly cohesive group, and I was reminded how important communication is when riding like this. Being primarily a commuter cyclist, I don’t often bike with others on longer rides and I had forgotten the many hand signals and rules of etiquette that groups of riders use in order to function as a safe and efficient units.

While biking in the city, I’m usually just looking out for myself and I don’t communicate as much as I probably should with those with whom I share the road. Occasionally I manage a half-hearted hand signal to indicate a turn or to acknowledge someone who has stopped let me pass; more often I just dole out dirty looks to drivers who cut me off or edge too close.

But riding in a group of 20 or more cyclists required more deliberate communication, and I enjoyed picking up the finer points of the language as we went along. Often hand signals were passed back to make others aware of potholes to avoid or upcoming stop lights. At other times, we created a verbal form of vision, a collaborative seeing that kept us aware what was happening behind use without having to look.  Those at end of pack (which was usually me) would tell the rest of the group a car was coming from behind by yelling “Car back,” which then would be repeated by those ahead until it was passed up to the front of the group.

As the ride went on, the group would attenuate and break into smaller units, but good communication remained important even when riding with just one other person.

Now that I’ve brushed up on this biking lingo, I’m trying to be better about communicating as I ride, whether I’m riding in a group or just trying to make my way to work. I figure the more I can stay on the same page with others around me on the rode, the safer we’ll all be.